I’ve just teamed up with the sister team Brittany and Brey Nordvedt, collectively known as B, to produce a really fun a cappella rendition of Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff’s classic song “All I Want Is Christmas Is You.” The single is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon MP3.
I’ve been involved in a cappella for more than two decades now. I got heavily involved in a cappella arranging during my high school years, before the college a cappella mass explosion, when there was barely any pop a cappella around except for Bobby McFerrin and Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.” I cut my teeth transcribing charts by Mark Kibble, Mervyn Warren, and Cedric Dent (of Take 6, one of my all-time favorites) and Gene Puerling (of the Singers Unlimited), performed and recorded a lot of vocal jazz in college (with the University of North Texas Jazz Singers), and have retained a love for the genre ever since. Earlier this year I got to work for the hit NBC a cappella competition The Sing-Off (see details on those projects here and here).
Here’s a clip of the song:
This Christmas arrangement, more pop than jazz, began life as a strict 4-part SSAA arrangement, but once we got into the nuts and bolts of the arrangement, it quickly expanded beyond that. Brit and Brey are great vocalists, and we chose to meticulously double-track each of the background parts. Because they are sisters, their blend is exceptional and natural. After all of the backgrounds were recorded, we attacked the lead vocals and ad libs. After twelve hours of work (done across three separate sessions), the recording sessions wrapped and the song was ready for mixing.
For the technically curious, the vocals were recorded through an MXL V69 tube mic and an Audio-Technica AT4050, going through a Metric Halo ULN-2 mic preamp and converter. Brit and Brey recorded each part together, so there’s a thickness to the background parts. Everything was recorded dry, without reverb or compression, then later I used Universal Audio’s LA-2A and 1176 to even out the parts. Each part was panned away from center, but randomly, so that both Brit and Brey’s vocals are evenly spread across the stereo field. Two separate reverbs were used to add depth: a plate reverb and a convolution hall reverb. Then quite a bit of volume automation became necessary to get the song to play smoothly and let the parts go in and out of each other and receive the necessary focus. Finally, to add a bit of analog warmth and bake the layers together, I ran the entire mix through the Universal Audio Studer A800 which adds some tape saturation.
The song was released today and is available for purchase on iTunes!